A Reservoir Of Fate

gunton-well CrispinaKemp

 

Mauve wondered what lay behind the walls. The structure was heavily surrounded by briars, vines, and weeds that would leave welts on anyone who tried to make their way through them. Though many of the plants seemed native to the area, she couldn’t avoid the feeling that their placement and proliferation was intentional.

She saw no opening. The smooth walls were obviously water tight, and the pipe that drained into the small semi-circular pool hinted at some kind of reservoir. But who would build one and leave no means of entry? Why? Why in the forest?

“‘Tis magic water,” Mrs. Ainsley explained that night, wooden spoon stirring pots over the fire.

Was the old woman joking? Mauve couldn’t see her face.

“I would not drink it,” the enigmatic bed-and-breakfast hostess added. “Too potent. But rinse your feet in it if you wish. Been known to change some young folks’ fate.”

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Ruby Rudder

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Photo: Cosmin Serban on Unsplash

 

The boat was old and holey, but that did not matter. They never intended for it to be sea-worthy. Haruto didn’t like to get his feet wet, and Miyu had seen enough leave for the waves who did not return. Neither one of them had a hankering for sea-sickness or for gutting fish or for seaweed tangling the rudder and weighing down the nets.

They had a different goal instead.

The neighbors raised collective eyebrows when the couple hauled the vessel, hull protruding in the air, baring barnacles and showcasing slime.

Haruto and Miyu just nodded, plopped the boat against the workshop’s wall, and disappeared into it without a word of explanation.

They didn’t owe it to anyone and they didn’t know how well the end result would be. Better to keep mum until they saw for themselves how well the idea translated from a dream to action. And the neighbors’ bafflement was fun.

For days they sawed and sparked and banged and nailed. One morning the boat got swallowed by the workshop with only a small bit of the aft sticking out. The next day it was the other end. The smell of primer and varnish and paint permeated the air.

The neighbors mused and wondered. A few doors down the street, Mrs. Adachi placed bets with Mr. Chinen.

Holes were dug in the backyard. A mixture was poured. Poles wedged in.

Mrs. Adachi’s bet went up. Mr. Chinen raised his.

Then one early morning there was a new commotion. Ropes and pulleys, a few curses, far too many bangs.

The neighbors came out. Offered a hand.

By the time breakfast was ready, the boat was securely perched like an awning over a diamond of poles. A hammock strung below, shaded but for a dapple of golden strips of sun. The rudder, painted ruby, pointed to the stars.

And for the next year, Mrs. Adachi was going to have the benefit of Mr. Chinen washing her car. …

 

 

 

For RDP Tuesday: Ruby

 

 

 

A Key To The Heart

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

The last thing she believed was that her great-grandmother’s words had been literal.

The old woman was prone to tall tales, lore and fairies, rumors and gossip, odd potions and odder notions. There were always layers of meaning. Lessons. Some ancient moral to decipher. A hidden understanding.

As a young child, Patricia was fascinated by Gramma Gee. She would spend hours dreaming about the meaning of the words of mystery from the wizened woman who had more wrinkles than skin and whose spine bent halfway parallel to the ground.

But by the time she turned an adolescent, Patricia found the elder’s cryptic talk to be boring, dated, and annoying. She only went to visit to assuage her mother’s guilt, and even then did so without enthusiasm and for the briefest stay.

When Mom died at the end of a long illness while Gramma Gee continued living, Patricia — then a college student — stopped visiting altogether. She’d convinced herself that the old woman in the cheerless room in the old people’s home was senile and would not know the difference, but in her heart’s heart she knew that she was angry. Every day the ancient lived felt like one stolen from her mother.

Patricia wondered if her mom had felt that way after Nana died. The sudden death that bled Nana’s life into her brain had left Mom bereft and lonely. Patricia was not quite four years old at the time.

It did not seem fair. Two holes bracketed by a woman so old there could not have been a good enough reason for her to still live.

Then, on Patricia’s twenty-sixth birthday, Gramma Gee breathed her last. She’d just turned ninety-five.

She left Patricia everything: Two tattered suitcases of documents, moth-eaten blankets in a trunk that could have come out of a horror movie, a box of knickknacks, and a four-leaf clover key wrapped in a piece of leather in the shape of a heart.

“There is a key to the heart, and you can use it.”

Patricia had heard Gramma Gee say this phrase more times than she cared to remember. She’d thought it romantic at some point, then irritating.

But was it more than an expression? And if so, a key to what?

The attorney who was the executor of Gramma Gee’s meager estate was no help. A harried man with droopy spectacles and droopier hair, he had not much to tell her. “It could be in the documents,” he said, nicotine-stained fingers fidgeting for her to sign the papers on his desk and let him go handle some other oldster’s odds and ends. “I believe there’s a deed among the documents. To some house in the old country. I don’t expect it to still be standing. Most are not.”

It was mostly not.

But a section was, and part of a stair sticking out of broken walls. And the owner of the bed and breakfast nearby had a small tractor and a strong son he could lend. When they cleared away the rotten beams and tumbled stones and mounds of weeds, there was an intact part of ancient wall revealed, and more steps.

And at the end of those, a closed door. Set with a heart-shaped lock.

She had the key.

And she could use it.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto challenge

 

The Street

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Photo: Robert Almonte on Unsplash

 

 

The night is not as I’d expected it to be.

The sirens are silent. The windows dark. The very air seems still.

It had been a close call. Too close, almost.

I glance at Malachi. He returns a tremulous shrug.

“Will we be alright?” I ask. I didn’t mean to say it out loud, but the words could not stay in. The sound — although barely above a whisper — boomerangs in my chest.

“We might be,” he mouths.

At least I think he does. I cannot hear much above my heartbeat thundering in my ears. Everything inside me feels tight. I don’t remember being so unnerved. Not since. You know. The other time.

“Will they return?” Fear dries my mouth.

“Who knows.”

We reach the corner and separate. The night breaths as I hurry home and we go in different directions down the imperturbable street.

 

 

 

For the dVerse prosery challenge

Prosery prompt: “We go in different directions down the imperturbable street” (from the poem “An Aspect of Love, Alive in the Ice and Fire” by Gwendolyn Brooks)

 

 

A Bit Of Stir

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Photo: Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash

 

She was always one to cause

Quite a bit of stir

In every entrance,

In the very way the air around

Her every move

Would shift

To agitated waiting,

For something breathless

That was not easily worded

Yet nonetheless remained

Indelibly perceived as

Inescapable.

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille poetry challenge: stir

 

Hide And Go Seek

memory SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

It was the best place to play hide and go seek.

At least, that’s what they wanted him to think.

It was also the best place to go missing.

Not that they’d tell him. …

He had no reason to suspect anything was amiss. Not when the whole troop of them had ran together all the way to the weathered monoliths that dotted the small glens by the ancient cliffs. Not when the game had ensued with much merry running and grabbing and stone-circling. Not even when most of the children had headed back home for supper as dusk neared, but he was invited to stay “and play a bit longer” with a handful of the most popular kids.

He was new in town. He felt included. He felt welcomed.

He should have felt scared.

“He just disappeared,” they later said. “We thought he’d gone home with the others.”

“It has happened before,” their parents nodded, wrapping arms around the shoulders of their feet-shuffling children and forming a united wall against the ashen faces of the boy’s parents, the newcomers who never should have come, who never could belong. “The boy must have wandered away in faded light and fallen into a sinkhole.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Custom Made

 

“We have every kind you want. Every length. We can tailor one for you. Custom-made.”

The prospectors nodded and ambled across the display, hands clasped behind their backs. It wouldn’t do to knock anything off a peg. You never knew what could unzip itself from one of those. Bounty, sure. But just as possible was war. Or flood. Or plague.

The proprietor smiled. Not quite reassuringly. The merchandise was safeguarded against accidental activation, but there was no need to divulge that trade secret. It was best to keep a customer unsettled, a bit in need.

“Do you have any for, say, the ocean?” A woman in a too-tight herringbone suit and utterly-too-high heels, dared to voice the first request.

“We do,” Zip-location’s manager nodded sagely. “We can zip to a hurricane, or a shark-attack. Long one here would take you to the Mid-Atlantic. Last time used for the Titanic.”

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge #62

 

 

The Culvert

 

“Where does it lead?” Mina crouched and tried to peer behind the metal grate. The concrete tube curved away.

“To the factory,” Josh replied distractedly. Her derriere was hanging utterly too close to the water.

“Are you checking me out?” she teased. She knew he preferred men.

“More like watching out for you,” he pouted. His friend could read his mind even when her back was turned. He loved and hated her for it.

She twisted to peek at him. “The danger being?”

“Getting wet.”

Mina laughed. Josh was fussier than her own mother. “I won’t melt.”

“Not from normal water, you wouldn’t, but there’s a reason the factory was ordered closed, and why authorities reinforced the grates on this culvert. Only God and the now-dead-factory-owners-and-workers know what’s in there. I don’t like this.”

Mina’s witty retort fizzled when she caught sight of movement, barreling toward the grate.

She screamed.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge #60

 

Ethera

The Offering: painting and photo © Sue Vincent at scvincent.com

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

She was Ethera, and she came at the peak of the longest night, on the cusp of the broadening daylight.

She was Ethera. A human. A spirit. A soul. Sometimes one. Often all.

She’d lived among them, flesh and blood and hope and heartache. She’d hungered and shivered and grew and raised and danced and cried and plowed. There had been nothing in her that foretold what she’d become once she passed the veil to the realm of Nether. Where summer did not come and winter did not grip the land and where the prayers of people held substance, unlike bodies, which did not.

She was Ethera. Unseen by most. Perceived by some. Hoped for by many. Feared by almost everyone.

Feared though she’d rarely brought on harm that wasn’t already in the making. Feared though she heralded truth, which for a reason she hadn’t been able to fathom, so many fought against.

She passed like air. Like wind. Like the willow whispering a breeze into one’s ear come silent night.

She was Ethera. And she came bearing gifts: Of scented fields. Of sunlit glens. Of fruit blushing ripe atop the trees. Of roots awaiting the fattening of rain. Of undulating earthworms sliding through the layers of the dirt to aerate the unseen.

As she could, too, pass between the layers of being.

She was Ethera. Some thought her fog. Some thought her ghost. Some knew her as the mist that rose to hold the moments yet to come and the droplets of the feelings those would bring.

She came at the deepest hollow of the longest night, and in her palms she held a bowl of alms, collected by the people’s dreams to appease the frost and sing the morning in.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Write Photo Challenge

 

 

The Key

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Photo: Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

 

It was the key that would change everything.

He only found it because Cooper, ever disobedient, had slipped the leash and ran off the trail and into the thick of the woods. Again.

Deena thought his walks in the forest were cruel.

“It is his breed’s nature to hunt scents,” she’d inevitably complain about the leash, ruining what calm there was to be had in an afternoon walk. “How can you chain him to you when he’s meant to run where his nose leads?”

In Leigh’s view, walking the canine on paved sidewalks where there was no loam or crushed insects or chipmunk poo for Cooper to breathe, was actually far crueler. And so, like they often did when it came to disagreements, they ended up taking the easier way out by splitting the walks between them.

Deena would walk Cooper in the mornings in the neighborhood, where the most the dog could sniff was garbage cans and the occasional fellow leashed-pooch’s butt. Leigh walked him after work, and almost always in the direction of the woods, where in some ways they were both of them at home and both straining against some kind of leash.

It wasn’t perfect and sometimes it was lonely, but he preferred it that way. Quieter. With none of Deena’s nattering about minutia that he found excruciatingly boring to listen to and only slightly less indecent to ignore.

Not that he’d say that to her. Life was better when some observations were kept to oneself.

Like about keys …

He’d been running after Cooper when he tripped on an exposed root. A stream of words he’d learned while serving on a Navy ship spilled out of his mouth, when a shape manifested on the leaf-strewn forest floor. And it was as if a switch flipped and turned his mouth dumb.

He swallowed but there was nothing. His body shuddered with the memories of how quickly a mouth can turn devoid of moisture. That, too, he’d learned while serving on the ship.

He shook it off to make the involuntary shaking into an act of volition. Still his heart whooshed in his ears as he took a knee to the wet ground and reached for the key.

He didn’t know how long he remained frozen, fingers hovering without actually touching the bit of metal. Long enough for Cooper to return to investigate. Because the next thing  Leigh was aware of was Cooper’s wet nose, sniffing at the object of his master’s interest, licking Leigh’s fingers, breathing on his cheek.

“Move,” Leigh nudged the canine gently out of the way.

And Cooper, for once respectful without bribery, obeyed, and stretched with head on paws, his tongue dangling and his long body smeared with something Leigh noted to himself in passing would need scrubbing off with soap before being allowed back indoors.

“It’s the key, Cooper,” Leigh whispered. He was awed. He was aghast. “But how?”

It’s been eight years, five months, and two days since he’d lost it. On a different continent, in what felt a different world, in the middle of a battle, and not two hours after he’d sworn to his dying best friend that he would guard it with his life and bring it home to the fiance Mark had left behind.

“It was to be my wedding gift to Deena,” Mark had gasped, fighting for every breath. “She doesn’t know about it. I was waiting to tell her. It’s the key to my safe.”

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS prompt: Key